Category: Member News
By Liz Essley
The Dulles Metro rail project won't get any of Virginia's money -- not even the extra $300 million senators approved -- if the unelected board in charge of the project doesn't drop its preference for union labor, state officials said Wednesday.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton said Wednesday that even if the General Assembly triples the state's contribution to the Silver Line, as the state Senate would in its version of the budget, the project won't get any state money under a new law that prohibits Virginia agencies from funding projects that favor union-friendly labor agreements in the right-to-work state.
"This is a Virginia project. We're the project sponsor," Connaughton said. "All the funds for this project are coming from the taxpayers and toll payers of Virginia. We would appreciate if they would respect our views and our desires."
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority insists it will give a bidding advantage to contractors on the second phase of the project that use union labor. That phase of the $6 billion project would extend Metro from Reston to Loudoun County.
Virginia had pledged $150 million for the project, and the Senate recently added a provision to its budget that would allow the state to borrow an additional $300 million to help finance it. But the state is now threatening to withhold all of that money if the authority doesn't give up its preference for union labor.
"It's our view that given the new law they will not receive any of it," Connaughton said.
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York said his board, now composed mostly of first-term Republicans, might not support the second phase if the airports authority insists on union labor.
"Whether we are right or wrong on our perception of what a [labor agreement] does or doesn't do, frankly I just have a difficulty finding votes on my board to opt in to phase two" if the airports authority doesn't drop its preference, York said.
If Loudoun pulls out of the project, it could delay the extension of the Silver line by years because it would take officials that long to alter design and financing agreements, officials said.
Airports authority CEO Jack Potter said the board already compromised twice to meet state concerns, including moving the Metro station at Washington Dulles International Airport aboveground.
"They are listening," he said of the authority.